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Olympic ice-kings Germany look for summer glory in Beijing

AFP · 21 Jul 2008, 09:40

Published: 21 Jul 2008 09:40 GMT+02:00

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The equestrian events, handball, canoeing, rowing and kayaking are the Germans' favourite summer Olympic events, finishing sixth in the medal table at the 2004 Athens Olympics when they won 49 medals including 13 golds. Canoeing was Germany's most successful discipline in Athens where the team reaped four golds and nine medals in total.

Their chances on the water have been damaged by the withdrawal of 46-year-old Birgit Fischer earlier this year, with the former Major having won eight gold medals over 24 years of Olympic success. In her absence, rising star Fanny Fischer is tipped to feature amongst the medals in Kayak's K2 class having picked up two golds at last year's World Championships.

On the handball court, after the Germany men's team won silver in Athens, the 2007 world champions will want to go one better in Beijing and wrestle the Olympic crown from Croatia.

So far more than 200 German athletes have qualified for Beijing, with 450 expected to compete in total, and one of Germany's brightest prospects in the pool is former world 100 metres record holder Britta Steffen. But the 24-year-old Sydney bronze medallist will face stiff competition in the 100 metres freestyle from current record holder Libby Trickett from Australia.

On dry land, German men's basketball team clinched the last place in the 12-nation line-up at the Olympics on Sunday with a 96-82 win over Puerto Rico. The Dirk Nowitzki-led team missed qualifying for the 2000 Games in Sydney and, even though they got a bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships, narrowly failed to qualify again for the 2004 Games in Athens.

Having never finished higher than seventh at an Olympics, the German team were boosted by the news Los Angeles Clipper centre Chris Kaman had received his German passport and was eligible for the team. Despite not speaking a world of German, Kaman played a key role on Sunday scoring 10 points with 12 rebounds.

"I've only been here 12 days but Dirk has waited 12 years for this to happen," said Kaman. "I can't even imagine the emotions that he must be feeling at this moment."

Germany can expect to be strong in the saddle again after their equestrian team won their third successive Aachen Nations Cup earlier this month having held off a strong challenge from the Dutch. Germany showed their strength in Aachen when only one of their four riders, Marco Kutscher, incurred jumping faults in the opening round. Their victory was secured without needing to use their fourth rider.

On the hockey field, Germany will want to bounce back from losing world number one spot to defending Olympic champions Australia when they finished fifth in June's Champions Trophy in the Netherlands.

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And having won the World Cup in China last year, Germany's women will be looking to add Olympic gold to their global crown on the football pitch and will be aiming to down defending champions the United States.

In athletics, the once mighty Germans have no chance to threaten the United States and Russian domination, especially after former Olympic gold discus medalist Lars Riedel retired recently.

And with the likes of long-jump and sprint queen Heike Drechsler long gone, Sydney 2000 800 metres champion Nils Schumann has all but given up hope of a place at Beijing after suffering from repeated achilles tendon injuries.

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